A couple of weeks ago a friend turned 30 and to celebrate his girlfriend took a bunch of us out to a chocolate class at Chocolate Box in Downtown Seattle.
They had a class area set up in a little nook at the back of the store. You can see on the shelves that they also sold wine. The guy explained that they can’t compete on price with the big stores so they focus on selling chocolate and wine from (mainly local) small producers.
To begin with they gave us some hot chocolate with marshmallows. The photo made it look a bit gross but it was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had!
It’s made from melted chocolate, not cocoa powder, and it was really rich – more chocolatey than milky. The marshmallows were also really good – apparently they’re made by hand by some local company. By the way it’s a small cup (maybe shot glass sized), not giant marshmallows.
At the start of the class we learned about how chocolate is made (from a fruit!) and what it goes through to become a chocolate bar. You can wiki the process if you’re interested but this is one of the steps – the cocoa nib. Please forgive my gross gym calluses.
The nib is pretty much a health food but it is super gross. Apparently some people don’t mind it but I found it really bitter.
The guy also talked about distinguishing good chocolate from mass market chocolate. The main one that I remember is that good chocolate has a lingering mouthfeel – it kind of coats your mouth even after you’ve eaten it, if that makes sense. It’s also rich enough that I reeeaaally didn’t want to eat lots of it.
After the talk we made our own chocolate bars and decorated them with nuts, fruits and spices. As the birthday boy Luke was allowed to lick the spoon.
Our chocolate bars were taken off to cool while we did the rest of the class and we got them back at the end.
The top one is mine. I had cardamom, sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts and peanut butter chips.
The bottom one if James’. He used habanero sugar, peanut butter chips and dried fruit.
By the way the habanero sugar was awesome – sweet but with a spicy kick. I don’t know what you’d use it for but I was pretty much sprinkling it on my hand and licking it off.
For the next part of the class we got to temper our own chocolate and coat various things (marshmallow, tortilla chip, strawberry and two biscuits) with it. James decided to be artistic and put one of the biscuits on top of the marshmallow to form a chocolate mushroom.
There was a granite stone underneath the paper to cool the chocolate. But if we just left it like that it would have cooled unevenly so we had to keep lifting up the melted chocolate with our fingers and letting it trickle down. This is James working on his chocolate. I don’t know why he is as rosy as Santa.
To test whether it was done we had to dab some on our wrists; if it felt warm or at body temperature it was too warm, but if it felt cool then it was at the correct temperature. Mine took ages to harden, which was a sign that I didn’t temper it properly. =(
We got to keep the leftover chocolate – but it’s really rich so I’m still making my way through it a week later.
James was much better at it than me. His chocolates turned out really well – they got a nice hard shell quite quickly and the guys that worked there commented on his tempering skills. On the right you can see his chocolate mushroom.
We also got a delicious teeny, tiny cupcake while we waited for the chocolate to cool.
That strawberry in the background is one that James dropped on the ground earlier. Luckily they brought over a replacement strawberry for him.
Some of the guys forgot about their strawberries until a few days later so had to throw them out. Which was unfortunately because they were really tasty. James ate his a day after I did, but was a bit grumpy that I had remembered to eat mine but hadn’t thought to put his in the fridge. Sorry Jamesy!
Here are the guys sampling a bunch of chocolates at the end of the class. Behind the bar is where we were earlier, and in the background you can see James packing all our chocolates up.
Everyone shopped while we waited for our chocolates to cool (a lot of us had tempered poorly!). We were all given 10% off vouchers as a thank you – I haven’t used mine yet but I want to pick up some chocolate bits to use in cookies and some of the chocolates that we sampled.
Overall it was really fun! We learned some useful chocolate facts (chocolate doesn’t get better with age – the best time to eat chocolate is now!) and had a great day out with friends.
Actually now that I think about it I think we spent that whole weekend with the same group of people (snowboarding and dinner on Saturday, and on Sunday brunch, the chocolate party, and another friend’s housewarming party in the evening). Everyone gets along and we do lots of stuff together. I think we got really lucky with James’ team – living in Seattle would be much less fun if he didn’t work with such great people.